Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Long Day

Mattie seemed to be doing better this morning, but by the afternoon it was clear that she was sliding on a downhill slope, healthwise. Her breathing was becoming increasingly ragged and heavy, her ears were drooping. Oh she looked bad. Below is a video I caught of her; I had no idea what I was dealing with, so I hoped a video might help if I showed some experts.

The advice came rolling in from experienced cow owners: Get a vet out, and fast. The only problem with that advice though, was that the vet was going to charge $200 just to park in my driveway! I was tired...Physically, mentally, and emotionally tired. And the glaring fact that I needed a vet was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. In short, I lost it. I cried. I was completely overwhelmed and feared I was going to lose my cow. After many, many tissues, I regained my composure just enough to call the vet. Turns out that his day was packed and he couldn't make it out even if I HAD wanted him to come. After listening to Mattie's symptoms I described, he became very grave and said it sounded like she had contracted pneumonia. His guess is that last night's bout of milk fever was just enough to lower her immunity levels and allow the pneumonia to grab hold and run rampant. That news didn't exactly cheer me up.

He went on in a no-nonsense tone to say that he would be leaving some medicine for me at his clinic which was 1 hour away from me, and I should come pick it up as soon as possible. His parting words were that if I didn't get Mattie's condition under control immediately, I risked losing both her, and the unborn calf.

Aaaaaand on came the crying again once I hung up. My goodness, I just couldn't seem to hold myself together!

But after awhile, I did manage to snap out of my funk, get some shoes on, and prepare for a one hour drive ahead. Now was not the time to be irrational. The cow needed medicine and she needed it ASAP!

Halfway to the clinic, one of my sisters called to inform me that one of the pigs had just escaped, he had a hurt front leg, and she locked the vagabond squealer into the chicken coop for lack of a better idea at the moment. I couldn't decide if I wanted to laugh, or cry yet again. This day was just getting worse and worse... First my cow gets sick, then I have to drive all the way to St. Paul to pick up antibiotics, then my pig escapes, and now he's got a hurt leg!? When it rains it pours. In the end, I decided to laugh. I had done enough crying for one day; it was time to find the humor in the situation.

Mattie's medicine was picked up and the drive home began. I looked at the five syringes and grimaced at the thought of having to do all those SubQ injections. It had been at least five years since I had done one, and I wasn't looking forward to doing it on my 900 lb. cow as a refresher course. The vet was gone, so he had simply put my things on the front porch of the clinic, in a cardboard box with directions written on a sheet of paper. I looked over the piece of paper and read what all I had just been given. One fat syringe was filled with a thick, creamy substance and was titled Excede; this was apparently for her milk fever. Another had a steroid in it called Prefed; to help with any swelling. Three slim syringes lay next to them and each held something different: One had banamine, which is a pain killer. One had Vitamin A and D. And the third was Vitamin B complex. Along with the needled syringes, there was another bag with 10 bovine sized calcium/magnesium boluses (pills). Two inches long and almost one inch wide, these things were so huge that I couldn't help but chuckle at the sight. Nevermind the term of something being a "horse pill", from here on out I'm saying "cow pill". Hehe.

When we got home, all I wanted to do was take a nap. But I knew I had to deal with Mattie first. Mustering up courage from some forgotten part of me, I walked outside and tied my sweet cow to a post in the barn. It's time to do this thing, Mattie dear. I decided that the boluses seemed like a good way to ease into all of this. It didn't involve needles, so we should be good to go right? Using what's known as a "bolus gun" (it looks more like a blow dart gun thingy, in my mind...) I quickly, but carefully, stuck the bright red bolus gun into the very back of her throat and deposited the giant pill too far back for her to spit it back out. Easy enough, I suppose. But just a forewarning: if you ever have to do it yourself, just know you're going to have a killer amount of cow slobber on your hands when you're finished.

The injections proved to be much easier than I was expecting. I chose the nice big Excede syringe for my first round. The vet recommended inserting the needle on the neck, right in front of the shoulder blade so that's what I did. Mattie had a lot of loose skin right there, so it was easy enough to simply pinch a good sized bit of skin and slip the needle in between skin and muscle. The cow however, was not amused by five needles in a row and the last one had to be done with utmost speed. Sorry Mattie! I promise it's for your own good!

After about two hours, the banamine had set in and Mattie's breathing began to slow down. Her tongue was no longer lolling, and she was breathing with her mouth closed. I'm dearly hoping she'll continue in this way even after the banamine wears off. The vet says if she doesn't begin to improve in 2-3 days, then she'll have to have another round of stronger antibiotics. He also says there's an extremely high chance that she'll get milk fever again once she calves, so I am working on being prepared for if that does indeed happen.

I wanted a nap so bad when I finally finished treating Mattie... But I could hear the pigs grunting, and knew I had to get Mike out of the chicken coop. Sigh. Of all the days to escape, it had to be today? With the help of the afore mentioned sister though, we had the porker back where he belonged in about 15 minutes. No fuss, no stress, no hassle. It was awesome. The pigs have been so good lately; they get daily back scratches and tummy rubs, and they snuffle and snort in happiness when they hear me coming. I'm going to miss them something fierce when their final day comes.

You'll never guess what I did when the pigs were safely secured in their pen! Yup, I went inside and took a nap! :) I was asleep instantly and slept like the dead for almost an hour. Oh it felt good.

It's been a really long day... And one I hope I don't have to repeat any time soon. But at least the cow and I are both standing so far. That's got to count for something, right?


Illinois Lori said...

Sleep well,'ve done all that you could today. I'll pray again tonight for Maddie before I go to sleep, will be watching for your update.


Linda said...

What a day huh? Need a hug? {{{hug}}}

nancy said...

Sounds like you have a good vet. I'd make him some cookies, or cheese!

Anonymous said...

Well done Caitlyn! I'm so glad that it all turned out ok. Is there anything natural that can be done for milk fever? Seems a shame to have to pump her with that stuff every time she calves.

blind irish pirate said...

Hey, I am a first time commenter (I think... haha) and a large animal vet tech. I am coming from hiding because I'm a little concerned about where your DVM recommended injecting the Excede. It is recommended that Excede be given SQ behind the ear in cattle due to residual drugs. What I mostly encounter at the hospital in the way of bovines are beef cattle (and let's just say I focus mostly on horses...), so of course the main concern is ceftiofur residue in meat. Before Mattie starts milking for you again, triple check with multiple resources to make sure that you know the milk withdraw time for Excede (especially if you continue giving it further down the neck) AND ESPECIALLY the Banamine...

I feel like I'm lecturing you on a sensitive time, but it's more or less words to the wise, not condemnation. You are doing what is best for keeping Mattie alive, and I can't fault you for that. :)

Goat Song said...

Linda and Lori! I always accept hugs! ;) And always appreciate them too!

Tasha, the best thing to do is just keep their calcium/magnesium levels up to prevent it. But I've heard that a good remedy (I have yet to try this though) is 2 big handfuls of kelp powder mixed into 2 lbs. of non-sulfured molasses, and then thinned down with raw milk until it's a good drenching consistency. I wanted to try this on Mattie when she had the milk fever, but didn't have the kelp powder on hand!

Blind Irish Pirate, thank you for that info! My vet said there was no withdrawal time for anything, which really surprised me since pretty much every drug has something of a withdrawal time. I will look into the Excede a bit more and see what I can find out about it. He had me give the Excede SQ on the neck, same as everything else; should I be concerned about that? The banamine was given orally; will that affect the withdrawal time since it wasn't injected?

blind irish pirate said...

Buh, I don't now about oral banamine with cattle. I think that it should be fine, since an injection leaves a residue in the meat and skin. So, good on that.

As far as the Excede goes, what I was reading this morning very briefly before I responded... sounds like there is no known withdraw period for milk, which isn't to say that there isn't one. I would recommend following the label instructions of injecting SQ right behind the ear in case there is any question. Ceftiofur is a strong drug that we want to (rightly so) keep out of the food chain. Super bugs and all of that crap.

But, I'm glad to hear she is doing OK. :)